As Chinedu meandered through Lagos traffic, he felt uneasy again. Three nights in a row he had dreamt of Richard and today he decided it was high time he stopped putting off the visit and actually go see his friend. Once upon a time they had been quite close and he didn’t like to think that the distance he put between he and Richard after that fateful day was what people called stigmatisation. He prayed for Richard everyday. There was nothing God couldn’t do but he felt as a human being and a friend he hadn’t done enough. He’d tried at the beginning but really what did one say to a person who believed all hope was lost? What could he possibly say to make Richard feel better? He had no responses for the numerous questions Richard threw at anyone within earshot and it was pointless telling him all was gonna be well when it was so obvious that all would not be well at least from a human standpoint. Richard had begun to succumb to the disease and had eventually flown abroad for treatment and the relief his absence brought had made Chinedu feel very guilty.
Richard had gotten back a while ago but he hadn’t been able to see him yet and had regretfully turned down his last invitation all those weeks ago. He was super busy at work and really not in the mood for chitchat especially with this Sheila situation. Women could be so unpredictable. He couldn’t fully understand why Sheila was acting up. Agreed he’d messed up their last date but she hadn’t even given him a chance to explain and she’d refused to pick his calls or even see him and after punishing him for a while, she’d called out of the blues at a time when he was out of town. That was the last he had heard of her…
“Why are women so difficult?”
His ringing phone broke into his thoughts and he answered the call with his cautiously, aware that the place was crawling with LASTMA.
“Hey bro, I didn’t know you were taking you car out this afternoon. I have a date…”
“Take the other car, the keys are on the table”
“I don’t want that one, I’m a chick magnet when I drive your range rover…”
Chinedu chuckled! His younger brother could be such a joker. No wonder he’d come back to meet his fuel tank on reserve. He ended the call, promising to be back home in time for his brother’s date.
He felt uneasy again.
He sincerely hoped Richard wouldn’t be home. That way he could leave a message and be gone. Life didn’t prepare you for awkward situations like this one and he still had no idea what words of comfort sounded best to the ears.
He arrived at Richard’s apartment in a couple more minutes and sighed loudly when he saw both his cars parked outside. He braced himself as he climbed up the stairs. He wondered what to say to break the ice. Maybe he should have brought a bottle of wine…
He pressed the doorbell once and waited. He could see the flickering light from the television but nobody came to the door. He pressed the bell again. Still no response.
The feeling of unease returned with such violence that he felt nauseous.
He had a nagging feeling that Richard was in trouble. Heaven forbid that he was in there about to commit suicide. Lucky for him, he remembered that Richard had never dropped his oyinbo mentality and liked to hide his spare key in the flower pot by his door. He hastily moved around the loose earth till the shiny key appeared and opened the door. There were clothes strewn over the couch. Female clothes. He wondered if the unfortunate female was aware of his friend’s HIV status. He couldn’t make up his mind whether to leave or wait in the sitting room, not wanting to barge into his friend’s room. The silence was deafening and suddenly a phone began to ring. The noise made him jump and as he picked it up to kill the sound, his hands began to shake.
The screensaver on the phone was a picture of his Sheila. Bright and smiling. He couldn’t let her do this. He got up in a hurry and barged into the room. Richard was just coming out of the bathroom and Sheila lay on the sheets in a crumpled heap. She looked dead.
“Richard what’s going on?”
“How did you get in??? Oh yeah, the extra key”
He didn’t seem himself and Chinedu was worried. What had Sheila gotten herself into? He wanted to slap the grin off Richard’s face so badly but he sensed he needed to stay calm for Sheila’s sake.
“Who’s the babe?”
“Some b*tch I used to know. Probably the one who gave me this f*king disease!”
Chinedu kept telling himself to stay calm.
“I haven’t had sex since before the illness and when I bumped into her, it was an opportunity to catch some fun and of course pay back time!!! But the b*tch was playing hard to get, apparently she seems to have cleaned up her act after leaving me and God knows how many other men- Victims!!!”
“Have you slept with her yet?”
“How am I supposed to if you are here in my room?! Talk about wrong timing! I tried penetrating her twice but she was tight and dry like a bloody virgin”
Richard burst into a crazed laugh!
“Buhahahahahaha, virgin my ass!”
Chinedu considered punching him again. He was starting to breathe really hard.
“Anyway I’d just gone to get some lube from the bathroom when you barged in!”
“Richard I can’t let you do this!”
“Why? What’s it to you? This chick has slept with half of Lagos and is a useless runz girl. Wetin concern you Broooother Chinedu?!”
He drew out the brother with biting sarcasm.
“Richard you’ve obviously had a lot to drink and are not thinking straight. Does anybody actually deserve to go through the hell you’ve been through? What if she really is clean?”
“What do you know about hell?”
Richard screamed menacingly.
“I’ve been abandoned, rejected and on the brink of death more times than I can imagine. I don’t have any friends. Even the so-called Christians abandoned me! And don’t let me even get started on the side-effects of those drugs. I’m finished Chinedu! F-i-ni-shed!!!”
Richard burst into tears and Chinedu winced, his anger dissipating till all he had left were feelings of regret and pity.
He moved closer and held his friend.
“Don’t touch me! Don’t f*cking touch me!” Sob. “Aren’t you afraid of catching the disease. No one who knows will ever want me again. Ever!” Sob sob.
“That’s not true Richie! You are still the same great guy you were back in the days. You’ll pull through this son. I’m just so sorry for not being the friend you needed me to be…”
Richie’s sobs shook his entire body.
“Bro, let’s get Sheila to the hospital and then you and I can talk. I promise to always be there for you…”
“How did you know her name was Sheila? Do you know her? Did you sleep with her too?”
“No Rich, I didn’t sleep with her. We’ll talk later. I only hope it isn’t too late for her…”
“Well, it’s too late for me and I don’t see anyone worrying…”
Richie resumed his sobbing. He seemed so broken and Chinedu kept asking God to take control. He felt a sense of loss.
“God if you make Sheila better, I promise to never let her out of my sight ever again…”
He whispered the prayer with fervour.
Minutes later as he carried Sheila out the door, a very sober Richie trailing behind him, Sheila stirred.
“Please don’t give me HIV please…”
The words were barely audible and tears stung Chinedu’s eyes.
“God please don’t let her get HIV, I’m begging…”
To be continued…
Have a great day folks…xoxoxo 😉